Tesco has dismissed claims from UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that it is attempting to sabotage his call to improve chicken welfare standards as "hypocritical publicity-mongering".

Fearnley-Whittingstall purchased a share in the UK's largest retailer in order to gain the right to bring a resolution on chicken welfare before Tesco's AGM. He wants all chicken sold by the retailer to meet RSPCA standards.

However, the celebrity chef missed the deadline to submit motions to the AGM and is facing a bill of GBP86,000 to cover the cost of sending out further voting forms to Tesco's 235,000 shareholders.

"Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is doing an absolutely superb job at promoting his new series of The River Cottage," a spokesperson for Tesco told just-food today (9 June).

"If he wants to submit a resolution at our AGM - just like everyone else - he must follow the rules. The deadline has been there for all to see. If he were really serious about discussing chicken welfare, he would get it right. We don't see why our shareholders should pay for his publicity campaign."

Indeed, Tesco told just-food that Fearnley-Whittingstall was insincere in his claims to be only interested in improving chicken welfare.

"The hypocrisy of the man is beyond belief. We had a meeting with him last week and he bought chickens as a prop. At the end of the meeting he asked us to throw the chickens away - that is how much he cares about chicken welfare. His own chicken runs failed to meet the welfare standards he is asking us to introduce.

On its own chicken welfare record Tesco said: "We are doing more than anyone else, and in particular we are doing more than Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, to improve chicken welfare. We've made available a range of free range and higher welfare chickens long before Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall decided it was a good idea to do so."